Thursday, November 13, 2014

Infinity Philosophy: It's Not Your List, It's You

After having dove in head-first into Infinity, I've sifted through the two main forums extensively, both the Official Infinity Forums and Data-Sphere's Forums, not to mention various blogs and podcasts devoted to the game. Obviously there is a wealth of information to share, including the specific sources I mention earlier, but there are a few philosophies about the game in general that appeal to me as a long-time wargamer, and make the game truly stand out among the rest.

The first of these I've cited in the headline of this article: It's Not Your List, It's You.

So why is this game philosophy so appealing, and what does it mean to you as a gamer and the wargaming community as a whole?

Why is this gaming philosophy so appealing?

In a competitive setting, which all games are to some extent be they friendly or tournament-based, there can frequently be the excuse for a loss placed wholly on the army list itself. I can't tell you how many times I've either played games or watched them played where even when the dice favors you, the list is just not the right one for facing your opponent. Or even more so for me, the themed list you so want to play isn't competitive at all in the current meta of the game. Sure it's fun to build and paint, but if you're just going to get your tail handed to you every time you play…well, it gets old and discouraging, quick.

Enter now, this philosophy. The concept behind it means that you can build nearly anything you want, any model you want to use, and in any combination (so long as it's legal by the rules), and still be competitive. Sure, you may need to make sure you have some specific troop types for missions, but that doesn't really impact the overall philosophy at all. It's not about the new army book, old army book, new hotness or FAQ'ed errata. It's all about how you play the game. It's your skill, mixed with random dice obviously, that truly determines how well your list runs. That is an extremely refreshing thought, and one that reduces the stress of needing to run specific lists/types of lists in order to be competitive rather than running a list you will enjoy. After all, it's a hobby right? Aren't we supposed to enjoy our hobbies?

What could this mean to you as a gamer?

Freedom. No, not the William Wallace cry of freedom, but freedom none-the-less when it comes to what to play. Every time we go to play a game we look at what to play, from what faction to what individual unit. We then judge those options based on whether or not they are "worth their points", or have the chance to "earn back their points", or any other moniker that places the onus of that choice on the unit or faction itself, and not how you play them. When we look at a unit and it is found wanting, we are chained to the idea that if you then take that unit, it will not perform well in the game for a variety of reasons, and then your list defeats you rather than your opponent's skill. Now I will add here that popular opinion on the worth of said unit or faction isn't always accurate and you should always judge for yourself, but regardless of that the chains I speak of still exist.

By placing the onus of playability of a unit or faction purely on your shoulders rather than the math of said model or army, you gain a certain freedom of choice. The freedom of choice to play your favorite models opens back up to you again, and freedom from the stress of either playing the most optimal, math-hammered list or losing your tail is granted to you.

How could this affect the wargaming community as a whole?

Too many games are mired in the thick of an ever-evolving meta. The army you poured your heart and soul into, not to mention your pocket book, not 2 years ago is suddenly neutered by either a new edition, new rules errata, or even a new book for a different faction whose points value doesn't match up with your own army's points value. You now have to spend hundreds of dollars and dozens of man-hours to either revise your current force if that's an option, or face the fact that you now need to shelf all that investment until the meta swings back in your favor. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not naive to the fact that gaming companies need to make a profit in order to stay in business and grow. I have no problem with any of them doing so, and I'm happy to spend the money to do my part. This isn't about that. This is about the rules and math neutering a force, list or individual unit. When that happens we see less and less individuality and creativity, and more repetition and monotony.

What I would love to see is more individuality and creativity in our hobby and those that show up to events, without a penalty inflicted by the game itself for doing so. How many of us spend hours at a convention or tournament just ogling other armies, envying their creativity and theme all the while plotting our next project because of all the inspiration right in front of us? I know I do. We would then see more variety in our opponents' forces and have a greater potential for more interesting games to fill our weekend with!

Is all this a pipe-dream? Am I just wishing without hope for change, only to be disenfranchised with the reality of the situation? Maybe with some games, but I don't think so with Infinity.

What are your thoughts?

- Tim



  1. I'm just getting into Infinity too and I agree with what you're saying - a game that means you can take what you like as opposed to what you "should". The obvious games that perhaps don't let us do that are the big ones, 40k, WFB and Warmahordes.

    However, I'm holding off a little because those big games have a huge amount of people effectively getting them to that stage by coming up with the "best" lists and posting them on the internet for the world to see.

    My view of infinity so far, and what pushed me to get involved, was the seeming close knit community whose advice to new people on the forums was "play what you like and enjoy it" as opposed to the 40k forums that are full of advice like "take leafblower/flying circus/Beaststar".

    With all the new interest in infinity, will there now be more people trying to "break" the game and posting the most effective/broken lists?

    I'm not trying to be negative, because I really, really like the feel of this game and the feel of the forums which seem like gamers who want to protect, nurture and enjoy the game and have it played the right way. Heck, I've invested a lot in this given the great figures and terrain so I'm banking on it turning out alright.

    It could be that the smaller scale of infinity is what has protected it from the "best" lists being posted everywhere, purely because less people have been trying to do that. But hopefully the new release of the game will tidy up the worst of the things that could have been abused.

    Sorry, longer than I intended and I am generally positive about infinity!

    1. Never apologize for a lengthy reply :) I'm happy you thought enough of my ramblings to give it that much consideration and thought :)

      Well said on all points as well, and I agree with you, to say the least.

      Will there be new power gamers that attempt to break the game with 'broken' lists? I'm sure people will try. What I look forward to is people gunning down their "broken" lists with combi rifles ;)